There are many different reasons to join in, to run and ride with other people but here I want to talk about an overlooked reason, beyond the usual camaraderie and coffee.
When you first start to run, or ride, there’s just one speed you go at, the only speed you can. The distinction between race pace and a recovery ride isn’t really that meaningful yet. Everything you’re doing is pretty much flat out, max effort. Best not to wear a heart rate monitor at this stage!
Later you’ll learn what’s a fast but sustainable pace for a 20 km time trial versus the pace you want to be riding for a fast but sociable 100 km coffee ride with friends.
Maybe later still you’ll wear a heart rate monitor and learn how speed, time, effort, and heart rate correspond. You’ll do drills like running fast till you hit a certain heart rate, jog till your heart recovers, and run fast again. Rinse and repeat as many times as you can and still recover in a reasonable amount of time.
The best training plans teach you the difference between short and fast and long and slow and everything in between.
And you could ride or run these on your own. That’s true.
Or if you’re a member of a team or training group, you’ll do some of these drills together.
On your own turns out to be tricky.
Truth is, there is a speed we naturally like to go and your own you’ll tend to go that speed no matter what the plan says. It takes incredible discipline to do otherwise. You might think it’s the fast runs and rides on your own that are hard but slow is tricky as well. I’ve done some drills where I am supposed to ride or run but not let my heart rate exceed a certain number and that means going VERY slow. It’s tough.
I admire people who stick to training plans on their own but if you’re not one of them, I have a better plan, one that’s more fun and will make you more friends.
Ride or run with a range of people, fast, slow, and everything in between.
On a typical week’s cycling I might do a fast paced club ride of 100 km, noodle around the bike paths with family members slowly for a short distance, ride 40 km with a friend who is about my speed (ok, he’s faster on hills and I’m faster on flats, hi EK!) and ride together some of the time but have fun racing each other when the mood hits, and then ride 40 km with a friend who is a lot faster and spend time chasing his wheel. You might add to the mix riding at a moderate pace with a friend who is new to cycling or a friend who is coming back to the bike from illness and/or injury.
The point is that you can build the challenge of riding at different speeds into your routine by varying who you ride with.
Ditto running. I had a very fast friend (hi MM!) whose recovery runs were my tempo runs, And that’s fine. We enjoyed running together although I made him do all the talking.
So next time a friend who is faster than you asks you to ride or run with her, don’t think “Oh, I can’t. She’s so much faster than me.” Recognize that fast people can go more slowly and that running and riding at different speeds is part of being fit enables you to do. Enjoy the company of other runners and riders and make moving at different speeds part of the fun.
(The above photo is of women cycling in the 1890s. I found the image here, http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/19thcentury1890.htm. I gave my talk to the International Association for Philosophy of Sport at the APA today and so I’ve been thinking a lot about the early feminists and women’s bicycling.)